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I love the smell of warm cookies. A cup of hot tea is equally inviting.
And if either of those is made with something that can soothe and balance my nervous system—I’m all in!
Oats were a breakfast staple in my childhood home. On school days, oatmeal came from a sugary packet, dumped into a bowl with a little hot water added to turn it into an instant excuse for breakfast before I ran down our quarter-mile dirt road to the bus stop.
Nowadays, I prefer my oats cooked slowly and topped with fruit or baked into heavenly oat bran muffins.
Oats are a perfect example of a wonderfully warm and soothing nervine food (although some may consider it a nervine herb when made into an infusion or tincture). You can bake them into bread or cookies, make overnight oats for a quick breakfast pick-me-up, or mix them with dried fruits and honey to create your signature granola.
Nervines are foods or herbs that affect the nervous system. Nervine tonics nourish and support, reducing stress and bringing calm and focus into your life. In contrast, nervine stimulants excite, and nervine sedatives suppress the nervous system.
Herbal folklore claims that oats may help your nervous system recover from anxiety and nervous exhaustion. But their delightful nutty flavor and versatility are enough to keep me coming back for more.
Although most of us are familiar with rolled oats, the unripe tops have the strongest tonic effect.
The milky green tops of the common oat plant (before the grain is fully ripened and ready for your breakfast bowl) are referred to as “milky oats” or “milky oat tops.” The stems that are harvested during the same stage are known as “oat straw.”
Oat straw and milky oats are highly regarded as nervine tonics in the herbal world. If you’ve never tried a cup of oat straw tea, you might want to give it a sip. The light, mellow flavor is sure to please. (I like to add a swirl of honey.)
If you’re not a fan of hot teas, you can drink it iced or add a few drops of milky oat tincture to your favorite beverage to reap the benefits without ever heating the kettle.
But oats aren’t only good for us on the inside. Externally, an oatmeal bath can help relieve itchy, dry skin. If you’re the creative type, give the following recipe a try. Just remember to use old-fashioned oats—not the quick kind—for the best results.
How to make an oatmeal bath
What you’ll need
1 cup old-fashioned oats
Optional ingredients (do not use with infants or young children without the advice of a doctor or herbalist): a few drops of lavender essential oil and ¼ cup Epsom salt
Put the oats into a blender with a snug-fitting lid. Pulse to blend into a fine powder.
If you add optional ingredients, pour the oats into a bowl, and then stir in the essential oil and Epsom salt. (Don’t add these to the blender! You don’t want all of your future smoothies to taste like an essential oil.)
Store the mixture in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. To use, pour half the mixture into a warm bath and swirl the water to dissolve the powder.
Homemade granola recipe
If you're more inclined to enjoy your oats from the inside out, try this simple granola recipe. It only takes 30 minutes in the oven, and you can swap out the nuts and dried fruit for your favorites!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped nuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
1 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup real maple syrup
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly pour in the melted coconut oil and maple syrup, and stir well to make sure all of the dry ingredients are coated.
Spread the mixture on a baking sheet or in a jelly roll pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
After the 30 minutes are up, remove the baking sheet and give the granola one more stir. Allow it to cool on the baking sheet. Store in a clean 2-quart glass jar or another airtight container. Enjoy!
Want more bath ideas? Click here for 15 stress-relieving bubble bath ideas.